We Drove the Ultra-Rare Morgan Plus 8 GTR

It's a V-8-powered, retro-futuristic dream machine.

Morgan Plus 8 GTR - 78 Morgan Plus 8 GTR - 78

If you drive far enough along Kensington High Street in London you’ll spot the city’s Indian Motorcycle dealership. It wasn’t always a motorcycle dealer, for years it was the home of Bristol Cars. Bristol’s sign was occasionally broken, but the building proudly housed cars as rare, quirky, and British as they come. Until one day the cars, and Bristol, were gone. 

How does this relate to the Morgan Plus 8 GTR? Officially, it doesn’t. Unofficially, Morgan got hold of nine defunct, bonded-aluminum Bristol chassis and 4.8-liter BMW V-8s, acquired after Bristol’s demise and asset sale. Then, Morgan announced a new car (complete coincidence). 

That was the Plus 8 GTR. After getting hold of several chassis from a ‘discontinued project,’ Morgan announced that the naturally aspirated Plus 8 was getting one last crack of the whip. The team in Malvern released a sketch; A car inspired by a GT racer from the 1990s with a flat door (rather than the trad Morgan swoop), an angry front, race car wheels, more louvers and vents than is polite for a car to have, and that was kind of it. That drawing enticed nine buyers who, for an undisclosed price, specced their cars and went off into the sunset with the very last of a breed. 

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Because they all sold quickly, there was no press activity, so, until the UK’s DK Engineering (who happen to have one for sale via auction platform Carhuna) asked if I’d fancy a stab at one of the rarest cars not only to come out of Morgan, but maybe in the world, only a handful of people knew what a Plus 8 GTR was like. 

First things first: it looks badass. It’s the ‘angry’ version of the Plus 8 that Morgan should have made back in the day (well, pre-2019). Its bodywork is aggressive, the splitter up front gives it a pronounced chin, its wheels look awesome, and the fixed roof adds aggression. It’s what a futurologist from the 1950s would think a race car in the year 2000 might look like. Inside it’s a pleasing reminder of what Morgan used to make—bright lights, BMW bits, clean dials with big ‘GTR’ logos, and a six-speed stick. 

Its seats aren’t brilliantly comfortable if you’re human-shaped, the cabin is a touch cramped, and the fixed roof, while lovely to look at, obscures the rear three-quarters view. Be grateful that, at tight junctions at least, you have a hefty motor sending power to the rear wheels. 

When the GTR launched, Morgan didn’t commit to a power output for it. The Aero and Plus 8 that went before had a perky 362 horsepower. Adequate grunt for a lightweight car, but after finding a straight to drive the GTR on, I’m not convinced it was adequate enough for the last-of-the-line special. It fires through its ratios quicker than I remember any Plus or Aero 8 managing. There’s more in that motor than meets the eye— perhaps a trip to the dyno is in order? 

Whatever’s lurking behind the vents, there’s plenty, and it does its thing while parsing out lumps of spicy V-8 noise. It zings, pops, and bangs on overrun. Small villages were distressed by it, children delighted by it, and I was enraptured by it. Cars don’t sound like this anymore for good, planet-saving reasons. But oh my, I’ve missed noises like that. The engine, as well as being powerful and sounding lovely, comes with bags and bags of torque. Sure, a big V-8 in ‘lots of twist shocker’ isn’t big news, but while lazily bimbling at 10 miles per hour in third I wondered how much it would complain if it put my foot down. It didn’t complain, instead firing me into the distance with gusto. Excellent. 

Special mention must be made for the GTR’s manual gearbox. It may be partly down to the car having not much more than 530 miles on the clock, but the ‘box feels so wonderfully slick. A firmish clunk as you go from ratio to ratio lets you know you’ve hit the mark, and that’s it. It helps you feel a connection with the drive and urges you to carry on and play. 

The ride isn’t soft. Far from it. You’ll feel it keenly because the rear axle isn’t too far from your ass, and it’s not a heavy car, so each time the springs are nudged in a direction they’re not 100 percent happy with, you’re jarred. The UK’s manky roads, despite being what it was tuned on, aren’t where it’s happiest. I suspect that would be a smooth, shiny, bump-free race track. 

Steering the GTR is an interesting affair; it turns better than I can remember any of the pre-turbo Morgan Plus/Aero cars being. It’s also smooth enough to be entertaining without being tediously ‘focused,’ but because the wheels are so damned far away from the cabin, you need to plan your turn-in. Its massive snout needs accounting for at junctions, too. 

The GTRs were made after the ‘old’ Morgan production line was long gone, which means the final nine were made by hand, and it shows for better and for worse. Perhaps because of its low mileage, or maybe because it was really well screwed together, the GTR felt as solid as they come. Each stitch was wonderfully placed, the controls were solid, it all felt ‘right.’ Until the roads started getting rough and the typical ‘handmade’ creaks and knocks made an appearance. It’s not a barrage of noise that’ll give you The Fear, but if you’re used to cars gl

ued together by machines, the sensations might jar. The resulting car is aggressive, exciting, and built for drivers to enjoy. The Morgan Plus 8 GTR shouldn’t have existed. It’s a car that was (unofficially) born out of someone else’s failure, and, while sad, it means we got nine very special, very silly ‘so long V-8’ specials. The fact there are only nine is a shame, because the GTR is an excellent time (if you’re into hand-built British metal), if a touch quirky. I drive out of town past the Indian dealership often and think fondly of the Bristol dealer. I’ll give it an extra nod next time in thanks for what we got after Bristol went, and hope that someone’ll tell me just how much power the GTR actually has.

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